Tricia Marwick, Holyrood’s Presiding Officer, has announced the date of the by-election to replace the late SNP MSP Brian Adam, who died recently after a long battle with cancer.
The election is to be held on Thursday June 20, and will be contested by the SNP list MSP for the North East, Mark McDonald, and Labour local councillor Willie Young.
Ms Marwick has written to Valerie Watts, chief executive of Aberdeen City Council and the returning officer for the constituency, to confirm the date of the election and to request that the necessary arrangements be put in place. MSPs have been officially informed of the election date.
The by-election will be the first real electoral test for the SNP since the party’s landslide victory in the 2011 election. The result is likely to be portrayed as an early test of public support for the independence referendum, to be held on September 18 2014. It is the first Holyrood by-election since the Holyrood elections in 2011.
The likely SNP candidate Mark McDonald has said that he would resign as a list MSP if he is selected as the SNP candidate for the constituency. He will be replaced by Christian Allard, who was next on the SNP list. The constituency is considered a safe SNP seat. The late Mr Adam held the seat with a 7000 majority over Labour.
Mr McDonald is a member of Holyrood’s Health and Sports Committee and the Local Government and Regeneration Committee. He has been an MSP since 2011 and was previously a local councillor on Aberdeen City Council. He was elected to the council in 2007 at the age of 26 representing the Dyce/Bucksburn/Danestone ward.
Labour’s Willie Young would require a swing of over 13% in order to take the seat from the SNP. With opinion polls continuing to show that the SNP enjoys similar levels of support as it achieved in 2011’s landslide, Labour will have an uphill battle if they are to oust the SNP.
Mr Young is Labour councillor for Bridge of Don and is convenor of Aberdeen City Council’s Finance and Resources Committee.
Mr Young has already courted controversy before the campaign has officially begun. Speaking in an interview with STV news this week, the Labour councillor repeatedly refused to say if his party would reverse cuts to college budgets, and avoided answering a question on whether Labour would introduce a so-called “graduate tax” to fund higher education. Mr Young also stated that he would like the council to have the power to raise Council Tax, despite Council Tax bills in Aberdeen being amongst the highest in Scotland.
The other parties have yet to announce their candidates for the seat. Parties have until Friday 17 May to nominate their candidates, after which the returning officer will publish the official Notice of Election.